In the 18th century, we fought for freedom and liberated an estimated 2.5 million people. In the 19th century, we abolished slavery and gave freedom to 4 million people. In the 20th century, the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements gave freedom and equality to nearly 70 million people. In the 21st century, it is poverty that keeps people from being free, and our next major accomplishment must be to use the resources we have to free the 44 million people currently held down by poverty and its many effects. For there is no freedom in poverty, and there is no reason for us to let it endure.
Each of the efforts of past three centuries took commitment in the truest sense of the word. And we made changes happen that many did not think were possible. We have an opportunity today to make this same type of commitment to eradicating poverty.
Even as we adjust for the cost of living in various parts of our country, and the number and percentage of people in poverty increases, there are still far more people who are not living in poverty, who have the ability to be part of a solution that is characterized first and foremost by connection. The mathematics of this are clear; if the majority of children and adults not living in poverty make it a priority to support those who are, and we use our energies to create clear pathways and foster collaborations among organizations of all types, the response will soon outweigh the needs.
Every two years we see large metropolitan areas transform as they host the Olympic Games. If we were told that the next Olympics were going to be held in our town, city, or county, we would ensure that every athlete had housing, every athlete had food, and that their rooms were nice and adequately decorated. We would ensure that they had the time to learn and practice their crafts, and then the opportunity to succeed. That is what it takes to end poverty – an Olympian effort.
I believe that only if we truly believe we can eradicate poverty will we succeed. We do what we think we can do – that is how our minds and bodies tend to work. This effort can not have in the back of its collective mind a creed of “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It must be, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Believe… and join us in this effort.